THE IMPEACHMENT HEARINGS
Rep. Bob Inglis Questions Starr
Thursday, November 19, 1998
REP. INGLIS: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Judge Starr, I have two things to thank you for and then two things to ask you about; first of all, the two thank-yous. As I've read and actually heard some of the things that various political figures have said about you, it makes me wonder why anyone would be willing to accept an appointment like you've accepted.
MR. STARR: (Laughs.)
REP. INGLIS: And really, it shows, I think, the tremendous service that you do to the country. And I certainly appreciate the fact that you have been willing to come out of a very successful law practice to spend time doing this. I mean, like you've pointed out in your testimony, you'd like to get back to private life. And for people like you, willing to serve our country in this way, it really is wonderful service and we all should thank you.
MR. STARR: Thank you.
REP. INGLIS: And I hope that over the years, somehow all that is forgotten of all of these things that have been said about you. I understand people wanting to defend a president, but they needn't attack the attacker. They needn't attack the prosecutor, the special independent counsel that's appointed here. And as Mr. Canady was saying, that undermines the process, it seems to me. So, first of all, thank you for your work.
MR. STARR: Thank you.
REP. INGLIS: Second of all, thank you for your very passionate defense of the rule of law in the last three paragraphs of your testimony. I think it's just a very eloquent statement that I hope is studied for years to come in law schools and other schools in our country, because truly it is a great statement and a passionate statement on the importance of the rule of law.
That gives rise to my questions. We had a hearing here recently, and there's some discussion about this point about what constitutes an impeachable offense in the context of whether there's a violation of the rule of law. And it seems to me the rule of law has at least two components. One is an adherence to due process, and the second, an adherence to the principle of equal application of the law, which is something you expounded on in these last three paragraphs.
And I know that there are some people who would say that perjury is not an impeachable offense. We heard a rather erudite discussion of that here a week or so ago. And it was a very sophisticated view that, you know, perjury is not an impeachable offense.
Let me ask you. I think we know these things about the president. We know who the president is. The question is, who are we? We know that the president has admitted to lying. He admitted to lying under oath. Now, if he were here, I think he would say that he has not technically committed the crime of perjury because it wasn't a material fact.
Now, Mr. Canady, I believe it was, elicited some response that -- no, it was Mr. Gallegly, possibly -- elicited some responses from you about the deposition testimony. But let me ask you about the grand jury testimony. In your mind, were those material facts that the president was testifying to in the grand jury testimony? And are the elements of perjury met in the referral on the point of the testimony in the grand jury situation?
MR. STARR: Well, Congressman, again, I have been somewhat reluctant to go all the way to say, in light of the purpose of the referral, to say that all elements of a crime have been satisfied. But let me say that in my own judgment -- although this is a jury question. Materiality, the Supreme Court has held, is a jury question. But I certainly think a reasonable person could very reasonably conclude that the elements were, in fact, present in the grand jury testimony by virtue of, as we've tried to outline in the referral, the number of statements that we believe were knowingly untrue. I think that that is a reasonable conclusion to reach.
Again, our mission or our responsibility in submitting this referral was to say that there is substantial and credible information that an impeachable offense may have been committed. And that, of course, is the state of the record as it comes to you. But, yes, I do think that a reasonable juror could come to that determination.
REP. INGLIS: Let me ask, as to the rule of law and the issue of whether perjury is an impeachable offense, I gather from your testimony, and you would restate here, that in your mind, perjury is an impeachable offense.
MR. STARR: Yes. I think, with all due respect to scholarly commentary and the like, that perjury is not only an impeachable offense as a matter of theory and doctrine -- and as a matter of common law, I think it's demonstrable at common law that it was viewed as a high crime or misdemeanor -- but also, as the chairman has indicated, the very practice. So the common law of the Congress of the United States suggests that it is, in fact, an impeachable offense, because judges have been removed.
The offense is the despoiling and the attack on the integrity of the judicial system.
The response may be, on the other side, "Well, we want to find out what the perjury is about and we'll take some perjuries more seriously than others." And that is a view, I will say as a former judge, any judge worth his or her judicial salt would say "Not in my court. Witnesses tell the truth. It doesn't matter what the underlying subject matter is. Once you're in court, under oath, you tell the truth."
That's the way judges look at the world, and perhaps that's why no judge being subjected to impeachment for perjury, has dared suggest "Don't worry about it. It's not an impeachable offense." It is. It's been viewed that way by this very body.
REP. HYDE: The gentleman from North Carolina, Mr. Watt.
REP. NADLER: Mr. Chairman? Mr. Chairman?
REP. HYDE: The gentleman from New York.
REP. NADLER: Mr. Chairman, I don't know if this is a point of order, or a point of information, but I'll ask the indulgence of the chair. Mr. Chairman, a few moments, in response to my questions, Mr. Starr referred to a case in re: grand jury proceedings, and in re: sealed case, which he characterized as the judge okaying the propriety of what they had done in the subject matter we discussed.
Now, these cases are in the possession of the committee under seal. And I would like to be able to talk publicly about them, and I would like to be able to know publicly whether Mr. Starr correctly or incorrectly characterized this. So I would like to know, since Mr. Starr has now referred to them and characterized them, whether they are no longer under seal. And if they are still under seal, I would like to move that they no longer be under seal.
REP. HYDE: I understand they're still under seal.
REP. NADLER: Then I would ask that the committee change that status.
REP. HYDE: Objection has been heard.
REP. NADLER: I didn't ask for unanimous consent. I made a motion, I think.
REP. HYDE: Well, I think it takes unanimous consent to take something out of --
REP. : Mr. Chairman, I make a point of order that the motion is not in order.
REP. HYDE: Well, I understand. But if the gentleman has something to say, I want to hear it. But --
REP. NADLER: Well, it's very simple.
REP. HYDE: We'll talk about it later. It's really not your turn. (Laughs.) You're not recognized for purposes of removing things from under seal.
REP. FRANK: Mr. Chairman, a parliamentary inquiry?
REP. HYDE: Yes.
REP. FRANK: We are going to have a session later to vote on subpoenas. Would it be in order for that motion then to be made at that time?
REP. HYDE: Yes, it would.
REP. NADLER: Very good. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
REP. HYDE: Now, the gentleman from the North Carolina will not hold against me the fact that Mr. Nadler intervened. I yield to the gentleman from North Carolina.
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